Sunday, May 31, 2015

William Stafford: "Adrift"

Let my dreams while I’m wide-awake
loose. Let me be drowned, baptized,
in the light given me. Day comes around,
night, fall, winter, spring,
summer. Leaves overhead, underfoot.
Waves arrive, buffets from friends
offended, enemies. Let it all come:
this is my way, this is the canoe I’m in.

"Adrift" by William Stafford, from The Answers Are Inside the Mountain: Meditations on the Writing Life, edited by Paul Merchant and Vincent Wixon (University of Michigan Press, 2003).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dianna Henning: "When the hummingbird's beak caught in the window screen,"

the tiny thing tried to back up,
if one can call reversing gears release,

its beak so finely wedded to the screen,
although threaded might be a more appropriate usage;

nonetheless, its nervous hovering
remained until the nail of its beak came loose

and off the bird took, flash of wings a blur,
the teeny god headed towards its own mystery,

and not once did it explain its fear
or utter anything about a harrowing escape.

"When the hummingbird's beak caught in the window screen," by Dianna Henning. Text presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: "Hummingbird crop," photograph taken on February 22, 2007, by Jon Fife.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tada Chimako: "Shade"

A dark elephant
living in a dark forest
came to sip from a pond
as the Buddha watched

A dark elephant
from a dark forest
has come to the pond
and sipped
the trembling vision
of the Moon.

A dark deer
from a dark forest
also came to sip from the pond.

The deer has also sipped
the vision of the moon.

The Buddha leaned over
and scooped up the moon in his palm.

I too will sip
if it will illuminate my heart
just a little.

More than two thousand years
after the Buddha's death
His remains have been divided endlessly
only imaginary numbers can count
the tiles atop the reliquary pagodas
that stretch into the sky
three stories, five stories, seven stories...

As a person of brightness
living now in a town of light,
to which pond will you go
to sip when overcome by night?
When you scoop up the water
what vision of the moon
will you find in your palm?

I too will sip
if it will shade my heart
just a little.

"Shade" by Tada Chimako. Text as posted on Dragonfly's Poetry & Prolixity (07/10/2010). Translated from the original Japanese by Jeffrey Angles. 

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Bob King. Caption: "The full moon reflects in a pond near my home earlier this week. As waves spread and flatten (left to right), the moon's disk reforms on the water."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tom Hennen: "Spring Follows Winter Once More"

Lying here in the tall grass
Where it’s so soft
Is this what it is to go home?
Into the earth
Of worms and black smells
With a larch tree gathering sunlight
In the spring afternoon

And the gates of Paradise open just enough
To let out
A flock of geese.

"Spring Follows Winter Once More" by Tom Hennen. Text as published in Darkness Sticks to Everything (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).

Art credit: "Crowd," photograph by Mike Hollingshead. Caption: "1.3 million geese came to Squaw Creek [National Wildlife Refuge, Canada] this spring—more than the population of any British city except for London." The birds were returning to their summer breeding ground in Central Canada.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Robert Bly: "Climbing into Bed"

There's no end to the joy of climbing into bed,
And hearing your wife rustling about nearby;
There's no end to the delight of the huge covers.

There's no end to the delight of hearing your body
Rumbling and the night waiting to capture you,
And take you off to your childhood bed.

There is no end to the joy of sensing your toes
Feel around at the bottom of the bed,
For the invisible dog that is sleeping there.

There is no end to thanking your parents;
There is no end to rubbing your feet after a run,
No end to the delight when the door closes.

There's no end to the joy of snuggling down
And pulling up the covers after you,
And saying goodbye to the world once more.

Isn't it enough—this being done for now,
And sensing the sea closing over you,
Free at last from intelligence with its huge hands.

There is no end to enjoying it again
And again, this dawdling at the end of day
And so slipping backward toward childhood again.

"Climbing into Bed" by Robert Bly. Text as published in The Cortland Review (Winter, 2011). Hear Bly read his poem on the publisher's page.

 Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Barbara Crooker: "Rufous-Sided Towhee"

The teaching of Zen is: drink your tea. —Jane Hirshfield, Agni Online

Which is what the towhee says as he

scratches in the underbrush, searching for food.
Black and white with rusty sides, he loves
the understory, the margins, the hedgerows.

He sinks into the afternoon like brown leaves
steeping in hot water. He knows no ambition

or envy, wants nothing beyond this spring day,

sunlight spreading like honey on toast. Up pops
my list, the items to check off, the errands to run,

the weeds to pull. The towhee sings again:
Drink your tea.

"Rufous-Sided Towhee" by Barbara Crooker. Text as published in Little Patuxent Review: A Journal of Literature and the Arts (Winter, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Listen to the "drink your tea" song of this bird (scroll down page to the audio bar).

Art credit: Untitled photograph of Rufous-Sided Towhee by Pat Gaines.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Yehuda Amichai: "I, May I Rest in Peace"

I, may I rest in peace—I, who am still living, say,
May I have peace in the rest of my life.
I want peace right now while I'm still alive.
I don't want to wait like that pious man who wished for one leg
of the golden chair of Paradise, I want a four-legged chair
right here, a plain wooden chair. I want the rest of my peace now.
I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without
and within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always
my own, my lover-face, my enemy-face.
Wars with the old weapons—sticks and stones, blunt axe, words,
dull ripping knife, love and hate,
and wars with newfangled weapons—machine gun, missile,
words, land mines exploding, love and hate,
I don't want to fulfill my parents' prophecy that life is war.
I want peace with all my body and all my soul.
Rest me in peace.

"I, May I Rest in Peace" by Yehuda Amichai. Text as published in Open Closed Open: Poems (Mariner Books, 2006 edition). Translated from the original Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld. Reprinted here by permission of Chana Bloch.

Curator's note: a blogger for Haaretz, observes, "The `pious man' in the first stanza is from a Jewish folktale. He believed that in the world to come, he would sit on a golden chair. A prayer for just one leg of it to make ends meet in this world was granted, but then his wife worried that he would wobble uncomfortably on a three-legged chair for all eternity."

Thank you to subscriber Anita Gold for submitting this poem, with permission of Chana Bloch.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jane Hirshfield: "Da Capo"

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.
You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

"Da Capo" by Jane Hirshfield, from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2005). Text as posted on Eat This Poem (02/22/12).

Art credit: Photograph of "lentil stew with chestnuts," perhaps by Nicole Gulotta. This image, poem and a corresponding recipe are found on Gulotta's delightful blog, Eat This Poem.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Donna Hilbert: "Credo"

I believe in the Tuesdays
and Wednesdays of life,
the tuna sandwich lunches
and TV after dinner.
I believe in coffee with hot milk
and peanut butter toast,
Rosé wine in summer
and Burgundy in winter.

I am not in love with holidays,
birthdays—nothing special—
and weekends are just days
numbered six and seven,
though my love
dozing over TV golf
while I work the Sunday puzzle
might be all I need of life
and all I ask of heaven.

"Credo" by Donna Hilbert, from The Green Season (World Parade Books, 2011). © Donna Hilbert. Text presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Arra Lynn Ross: "Mother Ann Tells Lucy What Gave Her Joy"

A moment of understanding
     when the face lights up
          and even the trees seem to kneel.
The mossy ground
     below a huge willow
          by the side of the marsh.
Children who come
     with white faces
          and turn pink
               in the sun.

The sound of sawing in the woods
          and the long lone hum
               of a boat bearing lumber
                    down the Hudson.
The sudden deer in the trees,
          a streak of white tail
               and the hoof prints
                    filling with water.

The sound of voices
          rounding out with grace,
               with trust.
                    And rosehip tea steaming in the sun.
How many times we threw off our shoes
          and danced together,
               the cool ground under our soles.
                    And the mud! churned by feet, and horses,
                       ox-carts and cows.
          The open throats
               and closed eyes,
                    that red ringing
                         inside my heart.

And mornings that Lucy sang
     making breakfast,
          snatches of hymns
               stuck together.

The long, quiet time of waiting.

"Mother Ann Tells Lucy What Gave Her Joy" by Arra Lynn Ross, from Seedlip and Sweet Apple (Milkweed Editions, 2010). Text as posted on

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Zurijeta/Shutterstock.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Susan Terris: "Matin and Vesper"

At the beginning of day,
rubythroat and trill of a tree frog.
Cicadas blade songs of immortality
as on an ancient Chinese scroll,
and sun through fog
burns a promise of warmth.
Steps on a path are straight
as we angle into light, hearing
leaf-whisper of
verses to be hymned.

When darkness swallows light,
a bat rises lofting
his delicate, webbed prison.
Waterstriders skim,
and a rising bass fins circles 
on the surface of a lake.
Wrapped in the blanket of evening,
we watch the circles, listen
as they lap to infinity.
Stay. Keep watch with us.

"Matin and Vesper" by Susan Terris. Text as published in Schuylkill Valley Journal and The Talking Stick. © Susan Terris. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Ripples created by an insect known as the water strider," photograph by Mike Laptew.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Billy Collins: "Directions"

You know the brick path in back of the house,
the one you see from the kitchen window,
the one that bends around the far end of the garden
where all the yellow primroses are?
And you know how if you leave the path
and walk up into the woods you come
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed
down during the horrors of the Ice Age,
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now
against the light-brown fallen leaves?
And farther on, you know
the small footbridge with the broken railing
and if you go beyond that you arrive
at the bottom of that sheep’s head hill?
Well, if you start climbing, and you
might have to grab hold of a sapling
when the going gets steep,
you will eventually come to a long stone
ridge with a border of pine trees
which is as high as you can go
and a good enough place to stop.

The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Still, let me know before you set out.
Come knock on my door
and I will walk with you as far as the garden
with one hand on your shoulder.
I will even watch after you and not turn back
to the house until you disappear
into the crowd of maple and ash,
heading up toward the hill,
piercing the ground with your stick.

"Directions" by Billy Collins. Text as published in Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995).   

Art credit: "Brick Path," photograph by (digitally enhanced by curator).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kerry Hardie: "May"

(for Marian)
The blessèd stretch and ease of it—
heart’s ease. The hills blue. All the flowering weeds
bursting open. Balm in the air. The birdsong
bouncing back out of the sky. The cattle
lain down in the meadow, forgetting to feed.
The horses swishing their tails.
The yellow flare of furze on the near hill.
And the first cream splatters of blossom
high on the thorns where the day rests longest.

All hardship, hunger, treachery of winter forgotten.
This unfounded conviction: forgiveness, hope.

"May" by Kerry Hardie, from A Furious Place (Gallery Books, 1997). Text as posted on Jelisava.

Art credit: "Cow in Flowers," photograph taken on July 24, 2009, by Bob.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Alison Luterman: "Invisible Work"

Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.

There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art.

"Invisible Work" by Alison Luterman. Reprinted by permission of the poet. This poem originally appeared in The Sun magazine and in Alison's first book of poetry, The Largest Possible Life (Cleveland State University Press, 2001). For more information about Alison and her other books of poetry, essays and plays, visit her website.

Art credit: Detail of mother and child, charcoal drawing by Egon Schiele.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Holly Hughes: "Mind Wanting More"

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade pulled
not quite down. Otherwise,
clouds. Sea rippled here and
there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has—
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses—as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren't enough,
as if joy weren't strewn all around.

"Mind Wanting More" by Holly Hughes. Text as published in American Zen: A Gathering of Poets, edited by Larry Smith and Ray McNiece (Bottom Dog Press, 2004).

Art credit: "Dried grass with green fringe," photograph by Jonathan Martin-DeMoor. Caption: "Dried grass seed heads glow in the warming evening light of early spring."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Alixa Doom: "Cedarkin"

I move slowly, happy
with just a bird song in my ear
and a breeze blowing through me.
I no longer buy tickets to anywhere.
Turning off on Deer Run Trail I climb the hill
through the sun and mist of cedars.
The slower I go the more time there is
to wear seed in my hair
and starlight on my skin. I sway
and bow to a truer time the earth
pushes up through cedar trunk.
I become filled with this place,
the broad green arms,
the quiet affection of cedar sisters.

"Cedarkin" by Alixa Doom. Text as published in A Slow Dissolve of Egrets (Red Dragonfly Press, 2014). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Western Red Cedar," photograph taken on June 13, 2009, in British Columbia (Canada), by Evan Leeson.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thomas Merton: "Song for Nobody"

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)
A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

"Song for Nobody" by Thomas Merton. Text as published in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions, 1977).  

Art credit: "Early morning glow," image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

John O'Donohue: "For the Traveler"

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

"For the Traveler" by John O'Donohue. Text as published in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (Doubleday, 2008).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Skip Nall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Les Murray: "The Meaning of Existence"

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe. 

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

"The Meaning of Existence" by Les Murray. Text as published in Poems the Size of Photographs (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).

Art credit: "Lemur (Zen)," photograph taken on October 12, 2008, by Sebastien Degardin.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kay Ryan: "Why We Must Struggle"

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double how
we can feed
as upon nectar,
upon need?

"Why We Must Struggle" by Kay Ryan. Text as published in Say Uncle: Poems (Grove Press, 2000).

Art credit: "Village child is climbing on the tree," photograph taken in west India on March 2, 2007, by ommishra.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Michael Blumenthal: "Be Kind"

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of life—
be kind be kind be kind be kind—but
because it’s good for the soul, and,
what’s more, for others; it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet wander
into a bush before our very houses,
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there’s
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one, so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and
squiggles to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust’s certainly all our fate, so why not
make it the happiest possible dust,
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked
witches of our childhood have died and,
from where they are buried, a great kindness
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course,
in the end so much comes down to privilege
and its various penumbras, but too much
of our unruly animus has already been
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure:
It will not drain your limited resources,
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses,
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

"Be Kind" by Michael Blumenthal, from No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012 (Etrusan Press, 2012). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Hedgehog," image by unknown photographer.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hanna Hurr: "Love's Lullaby"

A mother cradles her child against her thin breast
And gazes sadly into deep shining eyes, a mirror of her own
The infant cries, wanting milk
But there is none to give
The woman has not eaten in days
And her breasts are dry as the bone-cracked land that surrounds them
She whispers into his ear
A single word
Suddenly the stars rearrange
Painting perfect patterns in the inky sky
All around the world, cities fall silent
Apologizing for their constant pandemonium
Mothers look at the sky, listen to the stars, and whisper
The word flows from mother to child
Cracked lips to soft ears
The newborns remember without understanding
Years later, as the world writhes in war
The word ricochets in the grown children’s minds,
and they drop their weapons
Silent, thoughtful.  They turn their heads to the sky, and again,
the stars sing.

"Love's Lullaby" by Hanna Hurr. Text as published in Waging Peace: US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 2008).

Curator's note: This poem tied for first place in the Youth (13-18) category of the 2007 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards, a worldwide contest. Visit this link for more information.

Art credit: "A mother and child at an emergency feeding centre, Senegal, 2005," photograph by Finbarr O'Reilly.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Rhoda Neshama Waller: "Spring Comes to Maine"

Sonnet May 10

Almost mid-May, I watch the spring come slow-
ly day by day, pale lime-green moving up
from Sheepscot Valley towards my mountaintop,
up here the leaves still furled. Two eagles flew,
late afternoon, just past the east window.
Today, wild violets everywhere I step,
bright golden dandelions on the slope,
warm sun, after a week of rain, hail, snow.
Remembering to match my pace to this,
to note the details of each day’s new turn,
the distant hills still patched with lavender,
deep green of fir, the changing moments pass.
For dinner I’ll have buttered fiddlehead fern,
The daffodils are opening in the grass.

"Spring Comes to Maine" by Rhoda Neshama Waller. Presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: "Two adults from the local Bald Eagle family," photograph taken August 19, 2012, near Pembroke, Maine (USA), perhaps by Claus Holzapfel.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Harriet Brown: "After a Miscarriage"

When spring came I came alive again.
The air was finally gentle
and I breathed deeply of sweet

lilac and hyacinth and some faint
scent I couldn’t find or name.
It wafted through the house

like light, forgotten in our long
winter of darkness. The plums
and cherry trees around the block

were laced with flowerlets
and tiny leaves and made a subtle
dazzling of hope. Not a forgetting

but a softening, as if the harsh
outlines of loss were growing
over now with something like the tender 

grass of spring, its blades a clear 
luminous green, a color from childhood,
from a time before grief and its 

terrible healing makes traitors of us all. 

"After a Miscarriage" by Harriet Brown. Text as published in The Promised Land: Poems (Parallel Press, 2004). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Audre Lorde: "Coping"

It has rained for five days
the world is
a round puddle
of sunless water
where small islands
are only beginning
to cope
a young boy
in my garden
is bailing out water
from his flower patch
when I ask him why
he tells me
young seeds that have not seen sun
and drown easily.

"Coping" by Audre Lorde. Text as published in The Collected Poems of Audre Lord (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by